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The APS taken to task

This was emailed to me this afternoon. The contents are self-explanatory.

What follows is a letter that we sent to the current President of the American Physical Society (APS) with a copy to members of the Society’s Presidential Line Officers. Because of the serious issues pertaining to the integrity of APS — one of the world’s premier scientific societies (with upwards of 50,000 members) — we have decided to make the letter public.

SIGNATORIES (2 June 2015)—

Roger Cohen Fellow, American Physical Society
Laurence I. Gould Past Chair (2004) New England Section of the American Physical Society
William Happer Cyrus Fogg Professor of Physics, Emeritus Princeton University

May 8, 2015

Samuel Aronson
President, American Physical Society
One Physics Ellipse College Park, MD 20740-3844

Dear Dr. Aronson,

As three members of the American Physical Society, we are writing on behalf of the nearly 300 other members who signed our 2009 and 2010 petitions to the APS taking strong exception to the 2007 Statement on Climate Change. Those petitions called for an objective assessment of the underlying science, leading to a more scientifically defensible Statement.

We wish to call attention to important issues relating to the processes that led to the 2007 Statement and the Draft 2015 Statement. In developing both the 2007 Statement and the current Draft, the Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) failed to follow traditional APS Bylaws. In particular, regarding APS statements the Bylaws state: “The Chair of POPA has the responsibility for ensuring that the statement draft incorporates appropriate APS member expertise” (XVI.B.2), and, “Anyone, particularly POPA and Council members, who can reasonably be perceived to have a conflict of interest, shall recuse themselves from all aspects of the Statement process, including drafting, commentary, and voting. The President of the APS shall be the final arbiter of potential conflicts of interest” (XVI.E). Examples of relevant process exceptions include:

1. APS email records show that the original 2007 Statement was rewritten “on the fly, over lunch” by a small group of firebrands who arbitrarily inserted themselves in the process, thereby overruling the prerogatives of POPA and the APS Council. Thus, in "reaffirming" the 2007 Statement, the current Draft is referring to one that was produced by a bogus process and led to much ridicule of the APS, especially for its use of the infamous “incontrovertible.” In an attempt to disown this public relations fiasco, in 2012 APS (presumably POPA) quietly introduced a new paragraph break in the 2007 Statement so as to alter the original intent of the passage. Thus, the description of the Statement presented today as “Adopted by Council on November 18, 2007” is untrue and a violation of APS Guidelines for Professional Conduct (, paragraph two).

2. In the process of developing a Draft 2015 Statement, APS failed to consult any of at least 300 members, including Nobel Laureates, NAS members, and many Fellows, who were deeply dissatisfied with the 2007 Statement. Thus POPA deliberately failed to seek and incorporate interested and appropriate member input, as required in the Bylaws.

3. In the process of developing a Draft 2015 Statement, POPA failed to take into account the findings of the broad-based workshop, chaired by Steve Koonin, which faithfully and expertly executed its charge to assess the state of the science in global warming. The Koonin committee did the APS proud, conducting the only serious review of global warming science by a major American scientific society that we know of, while simultaneously realizing the objectives of our 2009 and 2010 petitions. Having thus advanced the interests of physics and the Society, POPA subsequently ignored the Koonin workshop and its product. POPA once again returned to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as its sole source of authority on the science, thereby abrogating its responsibility to the membership to properly conduct independent scientific assessments.

4. The Chair of the POPA committee has failed to identify serious conflicts of interests by its members. For example, a few years ago, one member of POPA, representing himself as an agent of a politically active nongovernmental organization, demanded that a Cleveland-area television station fire its meteorologist for expressing some doubt about IPCC statements on global warming. On every scientific point, the meteorologist was right, and we are glad to say that he retained his job.

These process exceptions by POPA cloud the legitimacy, objectivity, and content of the current Draft. In considering this, along with the strong basis for continuing investigations of unresolved key scientific questions in the global warming issue, it is clear that the best course of APS action is simply to archive the 2007 Statement without further attempts to replace it. We ask that you take this step in the interests of the Society and its membership.

We trust that you will share this letter with the APS Council. This is a very serious matter, and we intend to pursue it. We look forward to your response. Please respond to Roger Cohen, [address redacted].


Roger W. Cohen
Laurence I. Gould
William Happer


 c. Presidential-Line Officers:
Malcolm R. Beasley, Past President
Laura Greene, Vice President
Homer Neal, President Elect

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Reader Comments (50)

And the end result? Tubke weeds and crickets!


Jun 3, 2015 at 3:37 PM | Unregistered Commentermailman

The message is clear, "We reject and will root out your activist interference in our society".

The executive will not be able to swerve this one given the weight of the signatures.

Refreshing to see, one can only hope that other national and international scientific organization memberships follow this example and identify and root out the activists that have invaded their management structures.

Jun 3, 2015 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Singleton

Great to see this example of gutsy integrity for a change.

Jun 3, 2015 at 3:39 PM | Registered CommenterDung

The American Physical Society, like the Royal Society are two of the most reliable organisations, after FIFA.

The right amount of money helps guarantee that correct results follow the politics of the day.

All three organisations will blame their fall from grace, on the democratic processes, that were manipulated by shadowy organisations that they didn't know existed. They will therefore deny any wrongdoing and ask to be allowed to instigate reform themselves, because they know best how to put right what they did not know was wrong.

Jun 3, 2015 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

In the same way that BLATTER SPLATTER might be considered to be the mess from the (hypothetical) 'tap to the head', POPA CROPPER is when APS activists are cut off at the ankles.


Jun 3, 2015 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

They think that physics ought to be more important than politics in the APS, and hence they did not care much for that 'incontrovertible' nonsense in 2007, nor for much else in what was in essence a political initiative by the POPA - the Panel on Public Affairs. Nor do they think that the APS/POPA should treat its own organisational guidelines and byelaws with contempt. Nor do they think it admirable that the Koonin committee's excellent work be ignored by this POPA.

Perhaps it should be re-named as the COPA - the Cabal on Public Affairs.

Good luck to these men and their efforts to improve the sense and integrity of the APS. Their letter is powerfully written, and deserves a detailed response from the APS President and officers.

Jun 3, 2015 at 4:25 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

It was clear from Koonin's Wall Street Joirnal op ed what APS POPA was going to do. What these folks need is to access and distribute to the APS membership his final report along with the op ed. Sunlight disinfectant.

Jun 3, 2015 at 4:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

Anyone know a disgruntled FRS? It might be worth sending him/her a copy.

Jun 3, 2015 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Finally, some decent scientists speak up, unafraid. It's way past time, they've deeply damaged their reputations with their silence. Thanks.

Jun 3, 2015 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRedbone

POPA corn...

Jun 3, 2015 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

... are two of the most reliable organisations, after FIFA.


Still, the spineless wonders in the RS are living up to their motto: Nullius Invertebra.

Jun 3, 2015 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

They were only thinking of their grandchildren's inheritance. This is the emotional blackmail message of the Green Blob, wrongly misinterpreted by many to mean fleece all the money you can, before we all die, and Blatter anybody who obstructs you.

More of these people need to spend time in prison, so the impact on their carbon footprint can be measured. It may make absolutely no difference at all, but would be a valuable contribution to science.

Jun 3, 2015 at 5:33 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

are two of the most reliable organisations, after FIFA

Also after the EU

Jun 3, 2015 at 5:35 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

What a load of bollocks the entire AGW meme has become. Corruption is rife from the most vaunted halls down. Kudos to the gents who pushed this letter and at least they can hold their heads high.

Jun 3, 2015 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered


"Nullius Invertebra"


Jun 3, 2015 at 7:22 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

We look forward to your response.

As do all of us but it will be a very long wait.

Jun 3, 2015 at 8:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

The American Physical Society, like the Royal Society are two of the most reliable organisations, after FIFA.

LOVL. I might have put them both before FIFA. The level of corruption is well known, like FIFA's, and much more damaging.

Jun 3, 2015 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

[...] it is clear that the best course of APS action is simply to archive the 2007 Statement without further attempts to replace it. We ask that you take this step in the interests of the Society and its membership.

An eminently sensible request it seems to me and never could it be called, an unreasonable one - surely such an august institution should be red faced with embarrassment at allowing the release of the original statement, which is utter poppycock. But then, it's all about politics right? I mean heaven forfend it! ................. if physics and real science ever became involved.

So, I moseyed over to Steve Koonin's stuff, and why did the APS park it.

Well again, on re reading Steve Koonin's synopsis, he seems to have a foot in both camps.....

Although the Earth's average surface temperature rose sharply by 0.9 degree Fahrenheit during the last quarter of the 20th century, it has increased much more slowly for the past 16 years, even as the human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen by some 25%. This surprising fact demonstrates directly that natural influences and variability are powerful enough to counteract the present warming influence exerted by human activity.

" powerful enough to counteract" - hmm, what if, actually, there are no powerful forces, other than natural variability?

Earlier in his piece, Koonin makes this assertion,

That is no hoax: There is little doubt in the scientific community that continually growing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due largely to carbon-dioxide emissions from the conventional use of fossil fuels, are influencing the climate. There is also little doubt that the carbon dioxide will persist in the atmosphere for several centuries.

"largely" and " carbon dioxide will persist in the atmosphere for several centuries" Neither, of these glib assertions are proven or, 'known knowns'.

Koonin then goes on to say:

Even though human influences could have serious consequences for the climate, they are physically small in relation to the climate system as a whole. For example, human additions to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by the middle of the 21st century are expected to directly shift the atmosphere's natural greenhouse effect by only 1% to 2%. Since the climate system is highly variable on its own, that smallness sets a very high bar for confidently projecting the consequences of human influences.

I can't make out what he is about, other than making confident predictions is like second guessing the lotto draw.

But feedbacks are uncertain. They depend on the details of processes such as evaporation and the flow of radiation through clouds. They cannot be determined confidently from the basic laws of physics and chemistry, so they must be verified by precise, detailed observations that are, in many cases, not yet available.

"But feedbacks are uncertain" - got it in one fella.

Computer modeling of complex systems is as much an art as a science.

Now, there's where we do agree mate.

Jun 3, 2015 at 8:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

The APS has its election at end of this month. Remember, committees are like diapers and need changing for the same reason.

Jun 3, 2015 at 9:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Athelstan, what Koonin is doing is hedging his bets so he can stay mates with the warmists, but still take the credit for being "..... one of the first to point out .... etc" . It is a demonstration of how to play a winning hand now, that keeps everybody reasonably happy, but can be referred to with triumphalism later.

Jun 3, 2015 at 10:01 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

As an APS member I have no intention of rooting out anyone on grounds of activism.

Physics has its longeurs, witness string theory, and without happy warriors from Greenpeace and Exxon storming up the transom, things would be duller than ever.

Jun 3, 2015 at 10:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Dr. Judith Curry was a participant in the workshop whose views were ignored in the statement. Dr. Curry:

Well, their paragraph on Climate Science is a rather astonishing take on the APS Workshop. Their paragraph on Climate Change seems to come from the Guardian. Their statement on Climate Action reiterates their rather crazy statement in 2007

Apart from the issue that no one on the POPA seems to understand any of these issues beyond a superficial level (after Koonin and Rosner departed from the POPA), and that their statements are naive and unprofessional, here is my real problem with this. This is an egregious misuse of the expertise of the APS. Their alleged understanding of issues like spectroscopy and fluid dynamics are not of any direct relevance to the issues they write about in this statement. The statement is an embarrassment to the APS.

Jun 3, 2015 at 10:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon B

You do realize that Steve Koonin was Exxon's Chief Scientist?

25.3 billion barrels is rather a lot of liquid ballast to keep on an even keel.

Jun 4, 2015 at 1:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Koonin had extremely bad timing. 2014 was an extremely warm year and 2015 is shaping up as much hotter. It looks like the pause rhetoric is played out

Jun 4, 2015 at 2:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

The most interesting remark of Koonin's from that WSJ article was

Today's best estimate of the sensitivity (between 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit) is no different, and no more certain, than it was 30 years ago.

Which, at least to Eli, sounds like a very good argument for moving strongly to reduce CO2 emissions. BTW 30 years ago is a very generous estimate 50 or 70 works also.

Jun 4, 2015 at 2:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

Sepp Blatter was determined to trace the sources of corruption in FIFA. He did, and they got on very well.

Eli, we have to wait another 50-70 years before calling off the CO2 scam, because the previous 30 have not been bad enough, without evidence? You are not very convincing with your idea about a good argument.

Jun 4, 2015 at 2:59 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Eli thinks the failure of climate sensitivity to converge on a single value militates for invoking the Precautionary Principle.

I think it militates for humility in acknowledging that after a century, many questions concerning the Earth's most complex dynamic system are still poorly posed.

Jun 4, 2015 at 6:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

@Russell: the failure to converge on a single CS value is because the GCMs can't do it, at least until the modelling dimension is 1 mm, the characteristic length for turbulent flow in 1 Atm. air. Since they presently use 100 km, according to Moore's Law, it will take 1.5^16 = 657 years before sufficient CPU power is available. Deep Thought anyone?

And of course the Radiative and IR physics is completely wrong.

Jun 4, 2015 at 7:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

I'm not sure what the average IQ of a rabett is, maybe Eli could tell us, but my sense is that Steve Koonan was referring to the fact that the range of climate sensitivity derived from two climate models in 1979 by taking 0.5C from the bottom number (2C) and adding 0.5C to the top number (4C) has remained the same after 36 years and $bn thrown at climate science is indicative of ignorance rather than knowledge.

Jun 4, 2015 at 7:42 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

If an organisation like the APS is resistant to reform, the only alternative is to break away and form another one.

Jun 4, 2015 at 7:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterMuon

How is 2015 shaping up to be a hot year? Here in South East England it has been singularly cold all year, with maybe one warm to hot week.

Jun 4, 2015 at 8:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterAbc

"By 2014 we're predicting we'll be 0.3 degrees (Celsius) warmer than 2004".
Vicky Pope.

When will we have our missing 0.3 degrees?

Jun 4, 2015 at 8:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterrotationalfinestructure

Did the APS ever answer?

Do tell...

Jun 4, 2015 at 8:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Duffin


And remember that the MO was forecasting a blisteringly hot spring ......

Jun 4, 2015 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Constable

Russell said

"You do realize that Steve Koonin was Exxon's Chief Scientist? 25.3 billion barrels is rather a lot of liquid ballast to keep on an even keel."

Good old guilt by association. Star Chamber, anyone?

Jun 4, 2015 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe_Iceman_Cometh

If anyone hasn't yet read them, I thoroughly recommend the documents for Steve Koonin's APS workshop, available here:

The Framing Document is one of the most interesting things I've ever read on AGW. It's full of good questions which point out some of the problems with the IPCC's AR5 and is a serious attempt to understand the state of the physics.

The Transcript of the workshop is also a good read, full of information. For example it was the first time I'd really appreciated the significance of the graph on page 105, part of Judith Curry's presentation:

Now, the anomaly trend, climate model results are presented usually in terms of anomaly trends. If you actually look at the absolute temperatures from the climate models, it doesn't look so pretty.

This [next page] is from a recent article. I guess my references are given at the back, from Fyfe, et al. And you can see there is a spread of several degrees centigrade amongst the CMIP5 ensemble, the actual model climate. Some of them do a pretty good job of reproducing, but some of them are off by several degrees.

And you say, well, it's just the anomaly in the trend that matters. But again, to the extent that thermodynamics is important like the melting temperature of snow and sea ice and the formation of clouds and the Clausius-Clapeyron Equation is temperature-dependent, you know, these temperature errors do matter.

And I would just love to know because some of these are very far off, at what temperature do they actually melt sea ice? I would like to know.

The questions in the Framing Document deserve a proper answer and the APS attempt to sweep this workshop under the carpet are shocking.

Jun 4, 2015 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheSkyIsFalling

In reverse order, though physics of necessity deals in absolute temperature, there are bothe geopysical and human reasons for centering the climate debate on the freezing point of water.

How can the principal scientific spokesman for the world's largest oil company be guilty of association with the position he faitfully represented ? It is far more embarassing to the policy status quo that he was also chief scientist of the DOE.

The trekkie should look at my graphic compilation of the four dozen or so doubling sensitivity studies published in the last 121 years before saying anything sillier about Steve's focus on two of them.

Jun 4, 2015 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

vvussell don't you think that the IPCC's dependency on Mann's Hockey Stick science remains problematical? If not, why are you not celebrating his achievements?

Jun 4, 2015 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

TheSkyIsFalling: the APS workshop transcript is an outstanding document and speaks volumes about the true state and uncertainty in climate science.

The issue of the models failing on absolute temperature (but up to +/- 3 degC I recall) but being ok on temperature anomaly is a massive problem as far as I can see. How can you model snow/ice albedo responses if the freezing point of water is 0 degC but the models are only getting temperature right to +/- 3 degC? It is so obviously a non-linear system on this point. Absolute temperature really does matter for properties such as albedo.

Jun 4, 2015 at 2:57 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

Rabbetts are extremely sensitive to alarmist reporting.

Minuscule theoretical temperature changes of hundredths of a degree (well within the margin of error of current science) are undetectable by other creatures. However, these reports cause Rabbetts to break out in a heat rash and a digestive system disorder. The latter malady causes them to foul their dens by continuously excreting out of their butts pellets of intemperate language littered with terms such as 'extremely warm' and 'much hotter.'

These conditions have no physical cause, but the extreme severity of the neurosis is likely to drive the species to extinction in the near future.

Jun 4, 2015 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie


Yes, it's a mystery. If the models can't even get the temperature right I'd have thought they were useless. I don't understand why there's so much focus on the models' failure to predict the pause, which seems a minor matter in comparison.

Jun 4, 2015 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheSkyIsFalling

If the range from observations is 2.7 to 8 F, and some bunnies dont trust the models then the words of Naseem Taleb echo through the halls

Skepticism about climate models should lead to more precautionary policies in the presence of ruin. It is incoherent to doubt the mean while reducing the variance. . .

In thin-tailed domains, an increase in uncertainty changes the probability of ruin by several orders of magnitude, but the effect remains small: from say 10−40 to 10−30 is not quite worrisome. In fat-tailed domains, the effect is sizeable as we start with a substantially higher probability of ruin (which is typically underestimated). . .

Taleb points out that evidence for some outcome baring a tail event is not evidence that there will not be a tail event. So any bunny relying on Koonin or Nic Lewis, still should be strongly motivated to take action reducing emissions because EVEN in their minds the probability of a tail end disaster is significant

Jun 4, 2015 at 6:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

@Eli Rabett: the real Physics controlling our atmosphere shows it is incredibly stable. The problem is 54 years' incorrect Physics' teaching in Atmospheric Science, specifically to confuse Exitance (an SI Unit) with a real energy flux.

It's all very simple to people taught Standard Physics.

Jun 4, 2015 at 6:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

The words of Taleb deserve to echo through empty halls. Long may they continue to do so.

Jun 4, 2015 at 6:52 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Eli, Tail end disasters are highly likely to occur, on a diet of rubbish.

Jun 4, 2015 at 6:56 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

If Steve Koonin was Exxon's Chief Scientist then he was obviously paid by Exxon for his expertise. Exxon is in the business of producing a product indispensable for any modern civilisation and does so creating vast wealth not only for shareholders but also for the Treasury and society at large through taxation and by providing much high grade employment.
If Koonin was a rubbish scientist he would have been out of the door years ago.
In contrast, academia, government departments, NGOs are all stuffed with 'scientists' many of whom produce only Policy Based Evidence Making and shroudwaving nonsense. Karl et al being but the latest example.
Who to believe?
Many commenters on here have pointed out that this entire scam is only tangentially related to science, anyway. It is primarily a question of Dogma, Incompetence, Greed and Malice. And the perpetrators of the scam have a virtual monopoly of all the resources going. Particularly the money and the press.
As an old Chartered Engineer, I see no reason why I should feel abashed in commenting.
The famous Hans Christian Anderson tale "The Emperor's New Clothes" doesn't discuss whether the little boy was a fully qualified couturier, or whether he had published in all the best peer reviewed fashion magazines. (Although no doubt the two weavers made precisely these points).
All that was necessary was for the little boy to shout that he could see the Emperor's scrawny arse.
We should follow his example.
And, in the present case, what an unpleasant and shitty arse it is.
Trolls, please note.

Jun 5, 2015 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

@Eli Rabett:

But precautionary policies should be in proportion to the perceived threat.

While we're expending huge amounts of time and resources worrying about what might happen to the climate in the future, millions of people are dying each year because they lack clean drinking water or contract easily treatable diseases - a real problem that we're sure exists and that we could do something about if we tried.

The whole thing seems backwards to me.

Jun 5, 2015 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheSkyIsFalling

Something is badly rotten in our society. Time to defend our basic values.

Jun 5, 2015 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterCurious George

Jun 4, 2015 at 2:57 PM | thinkingscientist
and TheSkyIsFalling

The GCM's have never been good at conserving energy and historically one if the cludgiest parametrisations about ie 'flux correction' for example. So while they do a good job of modelling the dynamics of the atmosphere don't use them for things like temperature.

Jun 7, 2015 at 3:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Sky indeed it would be a good thing if Bjorn Lomborg used some of that $4 million to build new wells for the poor. Till then we are left with the words of Stephen Gardiner

The first is the threat of a false dichotomy. Arguments from opportunity cost crucially rely on the idea that if a given project is chosen, then that choice forecloses some other option. But this is not the case in Lomborg's version. Helping the poor and mitigating climate change are not obviously mutually exclusive. . .

Second it is not clear even that the two projects are independent of each other, in the sense that they are fully separable opportunities rather than necessarily linked and perhaps mutually supporting policies. . . .

Third, it is not clear that the opportunity that Lomborg wants to emphasize is really available.

Jun 9, 2015 at 2:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

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